US troops repel complex Taliban assault on Bagram Airfield

US troops beat back a complex Taliban assault on the largest Coalition base in Afghanistan, killing an estimated 12 Taliban fighters.

The Taliban launched the attack late at night and attempted to penetrate a gate at Bagram Airfield, which is north of Kabul. Heavily armed Taliban fighters, including four fighters wearing suicide vests, attempted to storm the gate but were repelled by US troops manning the security perimeter. “The attack included rockets, small arms and grenades,” the International Security Assistance Force said in a press release.

ISAF estimated that “nearly a dozen” Taliban fighters were killed during the failed assault. “Four of the insurgents killed were intended suicide bombers,” ISAF reported.

One US contractor was killed and nine soldiers were wounded during the Taliban attack. “Two of the nine wounded were returned to duty, all others are currently in stable condition,” ISAF said.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s top spokesman released a statement claiming that “more than 45 US-NATO soldiers killed and scores injured in the attack on Bagram airbase.” He claimed that 20 Taliban fighters penetrated the base’s perimeter. Mujahid released the statement on The Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s online propaganda arm.

The today’s attack is the second major strike against the Coalition in central Afghanistan in two days. Yesterday, a Taliban suicide bomber killed a Canadian colonel, five US soldiers, and 12 Afghan civilians in an attack on a convoy in Kabul.

The Taliban attacks are designed to break the will of the Coalition and demonstrate that its forces can strike in the heart of Afghanistan. Bagram Airfield is the largest Coalition base, and hosts tens of thousands of Coalition troops. The base is also the main hub for Coalition operations.

Today’s attack is the latest in a series of Taliban terror assaults in Afghanistan [see list below for the larger attacks]. Similar attacks have also taken place in Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, and India.

List of major complex attacks and suicide attacks in Afghanistan since January 2008:

May 19, 2010: US troops repelled a complex Taliban assault on Bagram Airfield. Twelve Taliban fighters, including four suicide bombers, and a US contractor were killed.

May 18, 2010: A suicide bomber killed 12 civilians and six ISAF soldiers in an attack on an ISAF convoy in Kabul.

May 5, 2010: A team of seven suicide bombers and two shooters entered the office of the governor of Nimroz province. The attack was defeated by Afghan police.

Feb. 26, 2010: A Taliban assault team killed 17 people in an attack on an Indian guesthouse in Kabul.

Jan. 18, 2010: A Taliban assault team struck at the presidential palace, the Justice Ministry, and the Central Bank. Seven Taliban fighters, three policemen, and two civilians were killed.

Oct. 24, 2009: An al Qaeda and Haqqani Network suicide assault team killed five foreign UN workers and three Afghans in an attack on a UN guesthouse in Kabul.

Oct. 8, 2009: A Taliban suicide bomber killed 17 civilians and wounded more than 80 in an attack outside the Indian embassy in Kabul.

Sept. 2, 2009: A Taliban suicide bomber assassinated the deputy chief of Afghanistan’s intelligence service and the leader of the provincial council during an attack at a mosque in Laghman province. The two Afghan leaders were among 23 people killed in the deadly attack.

July 24, 2009: Police in Khost City killed seven Taliban fighters as they attempted to assault the provincial police headquarters and a bank.

July 21, 2009: Suicide bombers armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles attacked government installations and a US base in the cities of Gardez and Jalalabad. Eight Taliban fighters and six Afghan security personnel were reported killed in the failed attacks.

May 12, 2009: The Taliban launched a multi-pronged suicide attack against government and security installations in Khost province, a stronghold of the deadly Haqqani Network. Eleven Taliban fighters and nine civilians were killed in the daylong assault.

April 1, 2009: Four Taliban suicide bombers disguised as Afghan soldiers attempted to kill the Kandahar provincial council after entering the compound. Security forces foiled the attack but seven civilians and six policemen were killed during the fighting.

March 30, 2009: A suicide bomber wearing a police uniform penetrated security at a police compound in Kandahar’s Andar district and killed five policemen and four civilians after detonating his vest.

Feb. 11, 2009 The Taliban conducted a multi-pronged assault on two Afghan ministries and a prison headquarters in the capital of Kabul that resulted in 19 people killed and more than 50 wounded.

Feb. 2, 2009: A suicide bomber detonated his vest inside a training center for police reservists in the town of Tarin Kot in Uruzgan province. Twenty-one Afghan police were killed and seven more were wounded in the suicide attack.

Dec. 4, 2008: A three-man suicide team stormed the headquarters of Afghanistan’s intelligence service in Khost province. Six intelligence and police officials were killed and another seven were wounded.

Sept. 7, 2008: Two Taliban suicide bombers entered a police headquarters in Kandahar province and searched for a senior police general in charge of border security at the Spin Boldak crossing point. Six policemen were killed and 37 were wounded, including the general, in the bombings.

Sept. 6, 2008: A Taliban suicide bomber penetrated a secure government building in the southwestern province of Nimroz and detonated his vest. The attack killed six people, including Nimroz province’s intelligence chief and his 20-year-old son.

July 7, 2008: A suicide car bomber hit the outside wall of the Indian embassy in a crowded neighborhood in Kabul, killing 54 people and wounding more than 140.

April 27, 2008: A Taliban assault team attempted to assassinate President Karzai during a military parade outside Kabul. Two members of parliament were killed and 11 others were wounded during the barrage of automatic gunfire and mortar shells.

Jan. 14, 2008: A suicide assault team from the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network raided the heavily secured Serena Hotel. Terrorists wearing suicide vests breached the front gate with a suicide attack and then entered the hotel and began shooting civilians. A Norwegian journalist, an American aid worker, and at least five security guards were killed in the assault.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • ArneFufkin says:

    One wonders what duty the American contractor was serving that placed him in harms way. Hopefully we learned from Iraq and are largely contracting underemployed Afghans to work in and around our bases.

  • Whats the difference between a simple attack and a complex attacks?

  • Atiyyatullah says:

    ArneFunkin, that is a disgusting thing to say. This is your war, so your soldiers and contractors should be in harms way. Any death in Afghanistan, whether it is Afghani or Western, is the fault of NATO. There was relative peace in Afghanistan until your troops entered, so whatever blood must be shed should be yours.

  • Render says:

    A complex attack involves multiple weapons systems, multiple attack points, and often multiple targets. As such a complex attack would also require more then the usual amount of planning and preparation.
    Complex attacks are also considerably longer in duration and may be sustained over several days or longer, depending on the situation, the attackers, and the target responses.
    Times Square, although complex in its detail and pre-planning, would be an example of a “simple” attack as it featured just one bomber and one bomb. Had there been multiple bombs and/or teams of gunmen and/or random rocket/artillery fire it would have been a complex attack.
    9/11 was a complex attack as it featured multiple targets and multiple attack teams.

  • kp says:

    @Gerald: “Whats the difference between a simple attack and a complex attacks?”

    Coordination (and so skilll and training) and team size.

    Simple attacks are a one or perhaps two suicide bombers on feet or in a vehicle on a single target.

    Complex attacks involve multiple actors (VBIEDs, manpack suicide bombers, riflemen and other weapons) attacking dispersed targets both simultaneously and in sequence.

    The BBC called this “audacious” and NPR “brazen”. I rather think “ill thought out” works better. They thought a frontal assault would work on a base with defense in depth like this one. They didn’t make it inside the wire and appear to have lost their whole team for the death of one American. Just think of the damage the team could have done in an urban area?

  • Ant says:

    Arne – Im sure this contractor was some type of engineer who worked on the base for specific reason along with a Government Clearance. I highly doubt that any of the locals have the skills for that position let a lone our Government wanting them in a classified setting.

  • Mr T says:

    12 men attack a base of tens of thousands of soldiers. All the attackers die. Their leader tells the faithful they were successful and killed scores of invaders. The insurgents in the field have no idea whats really going on. Their morale is sky high today. They are probably swapping stories about all the helicopters they shot down. Now their leaders can send them to die. I guess the fighting season is in full swing. They send people to die and then announce victory.

  • Neo says:

    As things are, this will get about three days minor exposure in the western press. We can expect vigorous follow-up attacks somewhere else though, and soon. The Taliban have said as much, and know they have to go for a cumulative effect to get some buzz in the western press.

  • mark says:

    I am very surprised by your post.
    Afghanistan was taken over by the Taliban. They allowed terrorist training centers in the country. These terrorists were to cause mahem through out the world. During the Taliban leadership, women were treated as crap, schools were closed, etc. There was not peace in or outside the country because of the Taliban.
    Then we quickly defeated the Taliban.
    The people of Afghanistan freely elected a Democratic government.
    The Taliban in turn have been brutually attacking their fellow Afghans. Destroying infrastructure, burning schools, etc.
    How could you not know that?
    I respectfully ask that you read widely. Read from the free press of Democratic countries on this issue. The Jihadi sites will just pollute your mind with lies.

  • FredP says:

    Mark at May,
    Well said!

  • Bungo says:

    This reminds me, somewhat, of the Tet offensive back in WW Nam circa 1969. The Cong (and NVA) attacked several large targets including Air Bases and were decimated in the process but the news media was stunned that the enemy had the wherewithal to mount such an operation (not withstanding that they accomplished nothing). The end result was something of a propaganda victory for the Communists. Walter Cronkite and Ted Kennedy and his minions then started their campaign to “bug out”. Everyone knows the rest of the story. The Taliban is, obviously, posturing for just such a negotiated conclusion. Lord help us all. It’s gonna be a Loooonnnnnng war.

  • Render says:

    Except that Tet included as many as 200,000 NVA regulars backed up by tanks (PT-76’s), long range heavy artillery (130mm), long range surface to air missiles (SAM-2’s) and jet fighters (MiG-17’s and MiG-19’s). It also included anywhere from 300,000 to 430,000 VC. Every single air base in South Vietnam was attacked.
    I don’t think the Talib are all that interested in negotiations, at least not by the Western definition of the word.
    “Relative peace”
    Relatively the Northern Alliance was still fighting back in 2001. Relatively in August of 1998 the Talib slaughtered a large number of Afghan Shia and almost sparked a war with Iran. 1998 is the same year that Osama bin Laden first openly declared war upon the U.S.
    Everything is relative. The Taliban gave shelter to those who attacked us. All they had to do was turn over al-Qaeda and none of this would have happened. Instead the Afghan people pay the price for the Talibans sheltering of a bunch of mass murdering psychopaths, child killers, woman beaters, and drug dealers.
    You very much seem to be the Atiyyatullah who mixes fact with fiction. Does that sound familar to you?

  • Zeissa says:

    Atiyullah: You’re a raging racist incapable of disgesting basic facts. Afghanistan was not at peace either inside or outside before NATO’s involvement. You also underwhelmingly misunderstand Arne’s statement.
    The only likely explanation is that Atiyullah considers the rank oppression of women and egregious international terrorism relative peace and doesn’t mind it or even likes it and won’t admit it. (cue pathetic excuses as to why this was all ok)
    Bungo: Actually the Tet offensive at least accomplished setting back their rural security programs somewhat.

  • Odessa says:

    I respect what your are saying, but you must not forget there was also peace in the US until Al Qaeda attacked us on 9/11. We are only in your country to deny them safety, not to make war.

  • Lorenz Gude says:

    I agree that this attack is about getting press notice in the West as well as with their Muslim audience through their press release. I noticed that Michael Yon recently lamented that few people were paying attention to the war in Afghanistan – that America’s national attention had moved elsewhere. Although tiny compared to the Tet offensive, I would say that from a media studies point of view that it is the “Tet meme” that the Taliban are trying to trigger in the Western press and that they will succeed to a certain extent.
    I don’t think there is any indication in the report that all the attackers died. The four suicide bombers died, but the rest are an estimated number. That would indicate to me that the attacking force was larger – much larger given the amount of damage inflicted – and that they probably removed their casualties.

  • When the Obama surge in Helmand is ongoing, this shows the rear is not so well guarded.Some talibs in fact entered the base and this fear of openness which is causing concern to knowledgeable.

  • Bungo says:

    Render said : “Except that Tet included as many as 200,000 NVA regulars (and) anywhere from 300,000 to 430,000 VC.”
    I might give you the NVA numbers if you include Hue AND Khe Sanh together but, with all due respect, I would downscale your VC numbers by as much as 90%.

  • Render says:

    Bungo: Hue and Khe Sanh were very much part of North Vietnam’s Tet Offensive. NVA leadership certainly seems to have thought so and Westmoreland was quite convinced of it (after the fact).
    Fair is fair, I used the weasel words “as many as” and “anywhere from…to…” Because some of the sources for those estimated numbers, on both sides, were more then a little suspect, even at the time. Some sources were as low as 20,000 combined NVA/VC, others as high as 750,000 including VC part timers and doubles and including divisional sized NVA logistics units working the Ho Chi Minh Trail in support.
    The combined NVA/VC hit over 125 major population centers and district capitals on the same day, even as the NVA was maneuvering multiple divisions along the DMZ, investing the Khe Sahn firebase, and overrunning Lang Vei Special Forces camp with PT-76 tanks.
    Until or unless the Pakistani Army switches sides (openly), the Talib will never reach those kinds of numbers or equipment. Religious fervor notwithstanding the Talib are not nearly as resourceful, organized, skilled, or tenacious as the combined NVA/VC were.
    All that being said…
    I have to admit that there are some creeping and somewhat disturbing similarities between the two wars. I myself have commented several times on this blog that the drone strikes are little more then mini-me Linebacker II raids, just way more accurate. So I guess I have to give you the “somewhat” part.

  • Mr T says:

    Isn’t this really more of a “the snow melted and we need to attack something” type of thing? I am not convinced they are doing anything different than prior years. The Nuristan base attack notwithstanding.
    Small groups attack semi soft targets to kill a couple of people. Civilians in the crossfire, hiding behind women, children, and old men as human shields, threatenting to behead anyone they think is not 100% supporting the Taliban, creating havoc, chaos, etc. All this is generally known as “terror”.
    It is hard on the people to endure this constant threat. That is why terrorists think terror works. People will bend to their will to avoid persecution or death.
    When the snows come back, the rats will go back to their holes to prepare for next year. In the meantime they are working on extending their terror networks worldwide. It is a duty of all Muslims to fight jihad and with billions of Muslims worldwide, it is not hard for them to find enough to cause terror.
    I am sure they would love to attack larger targets but they can’t. When they gather in large groups, they are targeted and decimated. They are forced into smaller multiple attacks using suicide bombers and suicide attack teams, but don’t think they are not looking for other ways to accomplish their goals. They are also trying to master the art of propaganda. Thats works when you control the information people get.
    Terrorize NATO and assume they will bend to their will as well. The problem is they won’t stop there. Thier overall jihad goal is a worldwide caliphate where Islam and Sharia law rules. Thats also why they can’t win. The world will not submit. They will be fighting jihad for a long time. Hence, the Long War.

  • Mr. T
    Let me humbly submit to you that it may be unwise to excessively focus just on radical Islamic groups.
    The underrated aspect of this so-called war on terror is state sponsorship of terror.
    Eventually, most roads lead to the states themselves, or putting it more specifically, jihadist enterprises that are controlling three key states.
    In my book, I have called Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran as the “Axis of Jihad.” Without their all-around thirty-year jihadist sponsorship, we wouldn’t be in this situation today.
    All of the above states are either close to achieving nuke capability or have access to nukes (Saudi Arabia likely funded the Pakistani nuke program).
    While the sideshow called Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen go on, a strategic nuclear threat is mushrooming in the background.
    The question we should keep asking is how we are going to protect our population centers against nuclear strikes by jihadist entities.
    The Islamist threat has now become a strategic one — least we forget!

  • Zeissa says:

    Muthuswamy: The idea of vanquishing one’s enemy must be rediscovered by civilized societies as it was lost in the rise of post-war humanism.

  • Mr T says:

    Yes, state sponsors allow them to be much more effective. I see terrorists, their state sponsors, and the clerics who inspire them as all part and parcel.
    The clerics teach it all over the world, the states provide money and security for it, and the terrorists are rewarded for it by the promise of an afterlife or at least a job waging jihad. More glorious than farming I suppose.

  • ArneFufkin says:

    @Atiyyatullah: I believe you might have misunderstood the context of my original post. I was not advocating that the Coalition Partners use Afghans as fodder or human shields. Instead, I was referring to statements by Petraeus and Crocker to the effect that instead of contracting Texans from KBR to pave roads, dig wells etc. in Anbar and Sadr City it would have been better from the start to employ jobless young Iraqis with shovels to do the same as they were the ones who AQI paid to plant IEDs. I think many of the Afghan Taliban do the same for monetary, not religious or ideological, reasons.


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